Daniel Murphy wasn’t looking for a business partner. All he wanted was to find office space for the advertising firm where he was working. But when he rented a few desks from Gary Hardwick, whose company was based at WeWork 1 Little W. 12th St in New York City, he found a kindred spirit.
At that point, everyone—investors, landlords, and suppliers—seemed to be saying “no” to his idea of starting a café like the ones he frequented back in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. He imagined a low-key coffee spot that was the opposite of New York’s grab-and-go routine. “In Melbourne, people meet for coffee,” says Murphy. “They go and sit down in groups and get together over coffee. It’s a very social thing.”
Hardwick was the first person to say yes to Murphy’s idea. Together they opened Black Fox Coffee Co. in 2014. At their first Black Fox location, on 70 Pine St. in Manhattan’s Financial District, Murphy was able to set the kind of scene he always imagined: The cafe doesn’t offer Wi-Fi; there are places for people to sit with friends; and the scrambled egg sandwiches, which vary from spicy to a pickle version, are best-sellers.
Murphy credits the café’s early success to his devotion to Melbourne café culture. Murphy was adamant about hiring a roaster who shared his Australian roots, and he found one in Kris Wood, an award-winning Melbourne-born coffee obsessive who understood Murphy’s vision to put the customer first. “Australian hospitality and service focuses a lot on experience and quality and engagement for the customer,” Murphy says, adding that the friendly vibe makes patrons “feel like a local as soon as they walk through the door.”
Luckily for Murphy, one of the Black Fox regulars just happened to be Dave Fano, WeWork’s chief growth officer. Fano was interested in collaborating on a project that would intertwine Black Fox’s welcoming atmosphere with WeWork’s energetic entrepreneurial culture. In December 2018, Murphy and Hardwick expanded their concept to the place where it all started: at a WeWork, this time on the 30th floor of WeWork 85 Broad St in New York. The café is open to everyone working in the building (but not the general public), and is just a stone’s throw from Black Fox’s first location.
As Murphy sees it, the open and airy space at WeWork 85 Broad St, designed by another Aussie, Samantha Eades, is a place for daily coffee and meetings—but it’s also a spot to unplug for a moment of solitude or to connect with other members of the WeWork community. Or, of course, to settle in with an egg sandwich, which remains on the menu at the new location. And in keeping with WeWork’s meat-free mission, Black Fox at 85 Broad has an all-day menu that features a salmon teriyaki bowl and a veggie burger.
All this happened because Murphy didn’t let “no” stop him from creating the café he’d always imagined, a lesson he’s happy to share with others. “If ‘no’ is the first response, I wouldn’t let that get in your way,” he says. “There are creative solutions to ‘no.’ Don’t let it stop you from what you want.”
The proof that it works? Murphy is already on the hunt for a third Black Fox location in Midtown Manhattan, and he says there might be more WeWork collaborations in the future.